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Posts tagged ‘failures’

How God Really Sees Me: Am I Condemned? Or Not?

SOURCE:  Living Free

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 NIV

Condemnation. A distorted reflection . . . and a lie.

We confess our sins to Jesus and He forgives us. When we become a follower of Jesus Christ, He forgives all our past sin. As Christians, when we fall into sin, the Bible promises that if we confess that sin, He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us (1 John 1:9).

And yet, we persistently hang on to the guilt.

We condemn ourselves and sometimes allow others to condemn us.

If we can get our eyes off the expectations of others and ourselves and look into the mirror of God’s Word, we will see ourselves as God sees us–forgiven, clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Here are a few of the reflections found in the Bible–there are many more.

  • I am righteous through faith in Christ. (Philippians 3:9)
  • Christ made me right with God. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  • God declares that through Jesus we have been made righteous. (Romans 3:23-24)

Look into God’s mirror. He sees you as forgiven and righteous!

Are you struggling with condemnation?

It can weigh you down, depress you, fill you with fear, and keep you from doing what God has called you to do. God wants us to repent and seek forgiveness. He wants us to try to make things right with others when that is possible. And then He wants us to move on. To learn from our mistakes, but not to dwell on them. He wants us to see ourselves through His eyes–forgiven and righteous.

Father, I thank you that Jesus paid the price for my sins. Thank you that when I repented and confessed my sins to you, you forgave me and cleansed me. Because of Jesus, I am righteous in your eyes. Please help me see myself through your eyes. Help me to walk in the peace of knowing that I am forgiven. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …


Seeing Yourself in God’s Image: Overcoming Anorexia and Bulimia
 by Martha Homme, MA, LPC.

The “ONLY” Way Forward –> Bringing Our Failures To God

SOURCE: Taken from  D.A. Carson/The Gospel Coalition

[Based on:  Leviticus 25Psalm 32Ecclesiastes 82 Timothy 4]

“BLESSED IS HE WHOSE TRANSGRESSIONS ARE FORGIVEN, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Ps. 32:1-2).

In a theistic universe where God keeps the books, it is difficult to imagine any greater blessedness.

The sad tragedy is that when many people reflect on this brute fact — that we must give an account to him, and there is no escaping his justice — almost instinctively they do the wrong thing. They resolve to take the path of self-improvement, they turn over a new leaf, they conceal or even deny the sins of frivolous youth. Thus they add to their guilt something additional — the sin of deceit.

We dare not ask for justice — we would be crushed.

But how can we hide from the God who sees everything? That is self-delusion.

There is only one way forward that does not destroy us: we must be forgiven.

“Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven.” And what is bound up with such forgiveness? For a start, such a person will not pretend there are no sins to forgive: blessed is the man “in whose spirit is no deceit.”

That is why the ensuing verses speak so candidly of confession (32:3-5). It was when David “kept silent” (i.e., about his sins) that his “bones wasted away”; his anguish was so overwhelming it brought wretched physical pain. David writhed under the sense that God himself was against him: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (32:4).

The glorious solution?

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’ — and you forgave the guilt of my sin” (32:5).

The New Testament writer closest to saying the same thing is John in his first letter (1 John 1:8-9).

Writing to believers, John says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” There it is again: the self-deception bound up with denying our sinfulness.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” There it is again: the only remedy to human guilt.

This God forgives us, not because he is indulgent or too lazy to be careful, but because we have confessed our sin, and above all, because he is “faithful and just”: “faithful” to the covenant he has established, “just” so as not to condemn us when Jesus himself is the propitiation for our sins (2:2).

The Sinning Servant: You? Me? Yes!

SOURCE:  Janice Wise/Discipleship Journal

THE SINNING SERVANT

God responds to our failures not with condemnation, but with gentle conviction.

It had been a good day! After building an altar, the prophets of Baal had laid out their sacrifice and shouted for their god to light the fire. All day they had clamored—but nothing happened.

Then Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord God, spreading his sacrifice upon it. Three times, at Elijah’s insistence, the people poured water over the offering, until the water ran down and filled the trench around the altar.

Elijah prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me . . . so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again” (1K. 18:36–37).

The people watched in amazement as the fire of the Lord fell from Heaven and burned up everything—sacrifice, wood, stones, soil, even the water in the trench. How they cried, “The LORD, he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1K.18:39). In triumph Elijah commanded the people to help him destroy the prophets of Baal. God had been faithful once again.

Then it was time to pray for rain. Three years before, Elijah had called for a drought in the land because of the sins of the people. Now God instructed Elijah to present himself to King Ahab with the announcement that rain was coming this day.

Elijah prayed seven times, until a cloud appeared in the sky and the wind rose, bringing a heavy rain upon the drought-stricken land. In the gathering storm, Elijah ran ahead of King Ahab’s chariot all the way to Jezreel. God had demonstrated His power and shown without a doubt that Elijah was His servant. Tired but elated, Elijah could thank God for the wonders of the day.

As he rested, a messenger came from the palace. Queen Jezebel’s words were pointed. “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them” (1 K. 19:2). She intended to kill Elijah as he had killed her prophets!

At the height of confidence and triumph the Enemy struck his blow. The Scriptures say, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (1K.19:3).

After a day’s journey into the desert, Elijah found a broom tree and sat down under it. “I have had enough, LORD,” he prayed in discouragement. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (1K.19:4). Then Elijah did what we often do in times of discouragement; he lay down and fell asleep.

Discouraged—Elijah? This man of God who had that very day experienced such triumphs in his ministry? Yet here we find him full of fear, defeat, self-pity. We, too, face these enemies as we serve the Lord. And often, like Elijah, we let them control our reactions.

NO CONDEMNATION

How does God deal with faithful servants who succumb to the attack of the Enemy? With condemnation?

No, for condemnation enlarges the already heavy load of defeat and drives us farther from our God. The Scriptures teach, “God’s kindness leads you toward repentance” (Ro. 2:4). God’s love brings us to the place of conviction. There He lifts us up and sets us once more on His path for our lives. As we look at God’s way with Elijah we can better understand the positive force of God’s conviction in our own lives.

Elijah slept on under the broom tree. Then God sent an angel—not to upbraid or punish the prophet, but to give him hot bread and fresh water. After Elijah had eaten, he lay down again.

A second time the angel of the Lord came to him. Surely this time the angel would speak to Elijah about his shameful behavior. But no—look at what the angel said: “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you” (1K. 19:7). Once more Elijah received nourishment and encouragement.

THE PLACE OF CONVICTION

After he had experienced God’s kindness, we might expect Elijah to quit running, but he only used the added strength to run farther away. He traveled forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb, where he found a cave and spent the night.

God knows exactly where we are headed when we run, and He even helps us to get there. He shows His love to us as He leads us to the place of conviction.

I remember a childhood friend who once threatened to run away from home. Her mother responded kindly, “Oh, you don’t want to live with us anymore? Would you like me to help you pack your suitcase?” Deciding she wasn’t that eager to leave, my friend talked her problem over with her mother, who helped her become happy at home once again.

So God helped Elijah, giving him strength even to run away. When Elijah reached his hideaway God was there, too. And He had just one question. “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1K. 19:9).

“I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty,” Elijah responded. “The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1K. 19:10).

See how fear and self-pity changed Elijah’s point of view. The Israelites had just proclaimed, “The LORD—he is God!” in response to the heavenly fire that consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. They helped Elijah put to death the prophets of Baal. And it was Queen Jezebel, not the Israelites, who had threatened to kill Elijah. When we get “under the circumstances,” driven by the Enemy, we have a distorted view of our situation.

God did not point out all these fallacies in Elijah’s complaints. Instead He spoke to him as He does to us when we have lost our way. He said in effect, “Look at Me.”

God’s GENTLE WHISPER

God told Elijah, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by” (1 K. 19:11). No condemnation, no explanation. Just the positive command to look at the One who can turn our darkest night into day by His presence.

There came a powerful wind—but the Lord was not in the wind. An earthquake followed—but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake, a fire—but the Lord was not in the fire.

For those who know His voice, God doesn’t speak through wind, earthquake, and fire. These are the ways He speaks to the world, to instill fear of Himself, for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10). Elijah did not need to be made afraid. He just needed to be reminded of his relationship with God.

After the fire came a gentle whisper. Then Elijah, recognizing the voice of his God, went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Once more God asked the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1K.19:13).

Condemnation will hammer at us about our sin; conviction asks the question that helps us see and correct the wrong.

God asked the same question. Elijah gave the same answer. In love, God lets us speak out the self-pity and frustrations, emptying them from ourselves to Him. Again Elijah aired his complaints, ending with the plaintive, “I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too” (1K. 19:14).

God did not comment on Elijah’s twisted view of things. Instead, after allowing the prophet to express himself, God gave a positive direction. Genuine conviction always provides a bridge back to the path of God.

THE PATH BACK TO GOD

God commanded Elijah, “Go back the way you came.” Then He gave him instructions to anoint Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha (1K. 19:15–16). God was telling Elijah to get on with the work of the Kingdom. God also shared with Elijah some future events, thereby showing him that their friendship remained intact; Elijah continued to be God’s man no matter how far he had run.

Almost as an afterthought God added: “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 K.19:18). Elijah wasn’t the only one left, and God had known it all along.

Elijah’s conviction and repentance were complete, for we read in the next part of the chapter that he immediately went and obeyed God’s command to appoint Elisha to succeed him (1K.19:19). God blessed Elijah as he obeyed. When the prophet anointed Elisha, the young man left his family to become Elijah’s attendant. Elijah never again had to feel he was the “only one.”

THE POSITIVE POWER OF CONVICTION

Conviction speaks the truth in love. It usually consists of few words, sometimes only a question. But our hearts know we are being checked in our course by the One who loves us.

James wrote, “Elijah was a man just like us” (Jas. 5:17). We who serve God have great power from Him—and shattering weaknesses of our own. The creative might of God’s conviction forms a bridge from our weaknesses to His strength. Because of this power active in our times of failure and discouragement, we can gladly say with the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

When we suffer discouragement and self-pity we are God’s servants still. We can trust that He will restore us to His paths as we yield to the positive power of His conviction.

 

“I will not accuse for ever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me. . . . I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;

I will guide him and restore comfort to him.”

—Isaiah 57:16-18

Facing the Pain Inside

Why do things go so wrong when you try so hard to do what’s right?

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Larry Crabb as adapted from Inside Out

I am convinced that most of us wrestle regularly with problems no one else ever knows about. For most of us, things simply are not at all as they seem to be.

The fact is, a lot of things are going on inside me that I have no intention of sharing publicly. The same is true for most of us. One of the most common things I hear from people who have come for counseling is, “I know I have questions and struggles and hurts going on inside me, but I’m scared to death to face them.” We simply don’t know how to handle it all, and we have no real confidence that other people could handle it either.

Most of us try to forget the whole inside mess and just get on with the Christian life, which becomes an ongoing struggle to look good on the outside and to deny what is really going on inside. But I wonder how much pain and disappointment—how much real agony of soul—is going on beneath the surface that has not been resolved or taken away, but only covered over behind perfect church attendance or Bible memorization or doing all sorts of good things for your church.

For the thousands of people like me who so often wonder why things go so wrong when they try so hard to do right, the Lord has a radical message, a message that needs to be clearly stated and heard.

SEEING THE PATTERNS

First of all, God is not a cosmetic specialist. He has no desire simply to get people in our churches looking the way they are supposed to look. His desire is to get down to the core of my being where I wrestle with anger, where I fight sexual urges that shouldn’t be there, where I feel distant from others, where there’s depression I hide from everyone else—to get down to the real issues of life, and accomplish change from the inside out.

Some years ago my wife and I were shopping for a new home. We finally found one that had everything we wanted, though the price was a little higher than the limit we had agreed upon. “Honey,” I said to her, “what do you think?”

“Larry,” she said, “this house is perfect. We’ve talked about it and prayed about it. This is the home I think we ought to have.”

After asking more questions—”Are you crazy about it?” “Are you sure it has everything you want?”—I finally said, “Honey, I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. Since you love the home so much, we’re going to buy it.”

“Larry,” she responded, “do you know what you just did? You have just taken the responsibility for the decision off your shoulders and put it onto mine, so if it ever turns out to be a bad one you’ll be able to blame me.” (Married to a psychologist, she’s able to think this way.)

She was right. I’m not big on decision-making. As a counselor I can handle suicidal crises and people with bizarre sexual problems, but I can’t handle making decisions in my own family. “All right,” I said, “I’ll take my share of the responsibility. Let me think this through and I’ll decide.”

I called an elder in the church. “I want to talk with you about a major decision I’m making,” I said, and we talked at length. “Larry,” he said, “if you want to buy the house, go ahead and buy it. From my perspective I see no spiritual issues here that need to be addressed.”

“Fine,” I said. Then I called a financial consultant who assured me the monthly payments were within our reach. “Go ahead and buy it,” he said. I thanked him and said, “Let me think about it.”

Then I called my father. “Dad, I’ve got a decision to make and I need your help.” I told him all the issues—the money factors, details about the house— and asked what he thought I should do.

“Larry, I know exactly what you should do,” he said.

Music to my ears. “What?”

“Make a decision.”

So I did. Finally.

On another occasion I had a few free hours to spend on a Friday afternoon. Two options occurred to me: going to the YMCA to work out, or playing tennis with my kids in the schoolyard behind our house. I decided to go to the “Y.”

I got in my car to make the three-mile trip. After about a mile I said to myself, I think I’d rather play tennis with my kids. I turned the car around, got halfway home, and thought, No, I think I’ll go work out. I turned the car around again. Within sight of the “Y,” I decided I really did prefer to play tennis with my kids. I pulled into the parking lot and right back out. But on the way home again I reached the same point of indecision.

I pulled the car off to the side of the road and threw up my hands. What is going on inside of me? Why on earth can’t I decide? Why is it so hard as an adult male—a man who professes his willingness to lead his family as a husband and father—to make decisions when he’s supposed to? Why is there such a pattern of weakness in my life in this area?

Indecision may not be as big a trouble for you as it is for me, but as I’ve described it, what kind of struggles in your own life come to mind? Do you see any patterns that disturb you? Maybe it’s time to take a hard look—an inside look.

You may be feeling uncomfortable at the thought of such a close-up, beneath the-surface examination of your life. “Just like a typical psychologist,” you might be saying, “trying to make a big deal out of every little thing in life.” Taking such a deep look inside is seldom a pleasant endeavor (at least for me). But Jesus says taking an inside look is what He wants us to do.

DIRTY CUPS

In Matthew 23, Jesus encountered the kind of people who seem to specialize in doing everything right and making sure you notice it. You know the type: the person who looks at you with a condescending warmth when you admit a problem. The person who never gives a hint that he has struggles too.

To such externally religious people, so respected in their community because of their careful attention to do everything they were supposed to—Jesus had hard words:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. —Mt. 23:25–26

No message is clearer from these words than this: Our Lord is not terribly impressed with people who look good on the outside, but haven’t dealt with their lives on the inside. Jesus encourages you and me to search below the surface—to see something deep in our lives that needs attention, something not very pretty.

Change—real change, the kind Jesus wants to make in my life and yours— involves far more than trying harder to do all we should. It requires what is so difficult for most of us in this fast-paced world: a hard look at our insides. And that takes courage.

FEELING THE PAIN

It’s so much easier to just live life on the surface, particularly when our situation is relatively pleasant. For when we look inside, what we see is usually painful. We were built to live in a nonfallen world, yet we’re living in a fallen world as fallen beings: I’ve sinned, you’ve sinned, there are problems all over the place—and I’m disappointed that I’m not experiencing what my thirsty heart craves in full measure now. The more I’m aware of what I long for, the more I realize the disappointment I feel in my soul.

For example, real change—the only kind Jesus will settle for—requires a courageous look at the quality of our relationships. Christianity is a religion about relationships, and God, in His ultimate existence, is a relational being. He designed us to live in relationships, and the measure of whether I can change to become what He wants me to be is whether I am living in relationships in the way I should.

But in my own relationships there are painful failures that, frankly, I don’t have the courage to face on my own. Maybe you have them too. All my relationships in some measure disappoint me, just as I disappoint everyone who has a relationship with me. Yet most of us constantly place pressure on other people to never disappoint us—to always understand our struggles, to always respect our efforts, to always support us, to always come through.

Deep in our souls, down at the core, we desperately long for this understanding from others. Not having it is painful. Our insides scream with the pain of loneliness and rejection and failure. It hurts so much that we try to relieve the hurt through our own efforts—often by withdrawing from others so that they won’t have the opportunity to disappoint us further. In every relationship we try to keep from looking and feeling bad, from being embarrassed, from reliving old disappointments—in short, we strive to avoid pain.

But feeling that pain is a first step, driving us to a new level of dependence on Christ. The only way to admit there is no real satisfaction apart from Christ is to first feel the disappointment in every other relationship. Once we admit our hurt—and admit that nothing and no one on earth really satisfies our longing—we can begin to fully depend on Christ to satisfy us.

DISCOVERING THE MORE

There’s more to what it means to know Christ than the most spiritual person around you knows anything about—there’s more! But we’re not going to discover the more until we acknowledge our thirst.

In Jn. 7:37 we read about an appearance Jesus made in Jerusalem on the final day of the Jewish harvest festival. He stood in their midst as an uninvited preacher and cried out, “If you’re thirsty, come to Me; and from your innermost being, I’ll cause rivers of living water to swell up!”

If you’re thirsty, He said, then come. The condition for the invitation is an awareness of thirst.

You and I are thirsty people. We long for a deep satisfaction, the kind that makes our insides very alive, that makes us rich people. We thirst. Deep in our souls, down at the core, we desperately want something—and want it legitimately—that we don’t have and really can’t have until Heaven—to be respected, to be deeply involved with someone who truly accepts us.

Jesus does something about this deep thirst. But it’s our responsibility—and our opportunity—to trust Him to produce the kind of change that way down we really want for ourselves.

To trust Him includes having the courage to face your sadness, knowing that one day the Lord will make everything right. For now, let the full impact of what it means to live in a fallen world really get to you. Let yourself be torn up. To be a strong, stable Christian does not mean you neither hurt nor weep. Face the fact that you long for a better world and for what you do not have and cannot have now. Groan over it . . . because it’s the route to joy, and to real inside change.

Trusting God also means trusting His forgiveness—which is the basis for change. When I come to the point of realizing I’m a sinner and that Jesus died for my sins, at that point He forgives me of my sin and He says, “Larry, I have given you life. Don’t try to go out and find it; rather accept it. Don’t try to preserve it; trust Me to take care of it.” Accepting God’s forgiveness allows the change process to begin.

Finally, trusting God means obeying Him by giving up that style of relating to people that really has our own comfort and protection in view. It means trusting God with our deepest longings and moving toward people in love—even though it’s risky and uncomfortable. Jesus leaves us in a disappointing world with the commandment to get more involved with people who are guaranteed to disappoint us further. The Christian life requires taking risks.

So the hurt doesn’t end. But trusting Christ with our pain and obeying Him by loving others leads to a deep sense of wholeness, a deep sense of intactness. There is life in Christ, and we begin to experience the reality of that life when we do what He says, when we give up our futile efforts at self-protection and allow Him to change us from the inside out.

If I Could Live My Life Over

SOURCE:  Discipleship Journal/Robert Boardman

During the early years of the Second World War, a young American Marine named Robert Boardman was beaten up in a drunken brawl in Australia, and wound up spending several weeks in a hospital.   In remorse he turned to prayer and to the pages of the Bible, and soon committed his life to Christ.

Later in the war, in the battle for Okinawa, an enemy bullet pierced his throat, and still today he can speak no louder than a husky whisper. Yet he prayed then that he would be able to return to Okinawa and serve the Lord there.

By 1953 he was back, ministering both to American servicemen and to the people of Okinawa. A few years later he moved to Japan, where he has been the Lord’s servant in leading the nation’s Navigator ministry for more than a quarter-century—years of lessons learned about the truly important things in life.

IS IT RIGHT to dwell on past weaknesses, failures, and needs? It could lead unnecessarily to resurrecting what would best be left alone—letting sleeping dogs lie is often the better part of wisdom. The apostle Paul spoke of “forgetting what lies behind me, and straining every nerve towards that which lies in front” (Philippians 3:13).

But the Bible is history, and it tells not only of successes but also of failures by individuals and by nations—failures that teach us lessons. We are to learn from the past.

So if I can tell you in a positive, constructive way about my own mistakes and failures, and thereby warn and challenge you not to repeat them, this article will be a valid venture. If I can help just one other person avoid one of my pitfalls, then I rejoice.

It is important to remember, however that God in his sovereignty has made each of us different in temperament, personality, emotional makeup, spiritual gifts, capacities, callings, and experiences. My areas of need and failure may be your areas of success. Nevertheless, I believe that many of my listed weak points are those we may have in common, at least to some degree.

If I could live my life again, I would seek to make these changes:

1. I would stand more boldly upon my God-given calling, and not be so fearful.

In September 1943 as a young Marine in the South Pacific, I became a Christian through reading a small Gideons’ New Testament. Six months later, after serving in the battle of Cape Gloucester on the island of New Britain near New Guinea, the God of all grace called me to serve him with my whole life. In subsequent years, he faithfully continued to reveal details of that call step by step, including sending me to Japan as a missionary.

I was not a heroic missionary volunteer to the land of my former wartime enemy, but rather a reluctant’ fearful candidate whom God had to “draft” into his service. I was much like Jonah, who resisted the Lord’s plans to send him to Nineveh, the great city of his enemy. My temptation is to be fearful—of the unknown future, of men’s reactions to certain ventures of faith I want to take, of real adversaries. Nevertheless, the gracious call of God to me in early 1944 has been the anchor of my soul when the storms of circumstances and my own limitations would resurrect the specter of fear.

I know that if my heart were more fully set on this calling from God I would be more Kingdom-minded, and therefore bold as a lion, remembering the admonitions and promise in Isaiah 54:17—

“No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

2. While they were young, I would spend more time with my children in worship, in spiritual disciplines, and in just enjoying life.

I have read that by the time a child enters the first grade, the basic direction of his life has already been determined. What you and I have done or not done before our children enter school has made them what they will be.

My temptation as a young, full-time Christian worker some years ago was to think that what I did with my little children was not so important. I thought when they grew older and could understand better then I would give them fuller attention. So I became busy in a ministry with young adults, waiting for my own children to grow up.

But such thinking is a fallacy. I foolishly took too much for granted, and gave my excellent wife Jean more than her share of the load in the children’s upbringing.

There is some consolation for me in seeing that the twelve disciples had the same limited outlook on the importance of little children. But to this Jesus responded, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).

3. I would ask God for greater blessings and victories, claiming his mighty promises.

Salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ is a matter of believing and claiming his word in order to be saved from our sins. The subsequent, progressive steps of life are also a matter of continuing to believe God’s word—a belief that will determine our spiritual growth. Common people become uncommon as they stand on the promises of God.

Today I have mixed feelings as I think of portions of Scripture I claimed in the past that are now being fulfilled. On the one hand, I rejoice and am overwhelmed at how God works and blesses. On the other hand, I ask myself why I didn’t claim more of God’s amazing promises so that he could do more through this unworthy servant.

I came to the Land of the Rising Sun as a result of praying over God’s precious promises. One of these verses I continually claimed was Psalm 2:8—”Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for shine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” As an heir of God and joint heir with Christ I believed I could legitimately claim that portion of Scripture.

With that verse in mind, I learned from Dawson Trotman how to pray for the nations using a world atlas. He and I would kneel in his study and put our fingers on country after country, key city after key city throughout the world, praying, pleading, interceding.

As time passes, our temptation is to rely on our past experiences, on the knowledge we’ve gained, on new methods and ideas—on everything except God’s exceedingly great and precious promises. Yet these promises are as sure as if they were already fulfilled, if we will but claim and believe them.

4. By God’s grace, I would be quicker to turn from temptation and sin.

Our tendency is to play with fire as long as possible without getting burned, even though it puts us in constant danger of destroying all that is beautiful to us, including our own life and family.

We have an extremely clever enemy—much more clever than we are. He knows our weakest point, studies it, and works on it continually in his desire to ruin us. He is a master strategist at knowing where, when, and how to attack.

Each of us has a point of vulnerability, something referred to in Hebrews 12:1 as the weight and sin “that so easily besets us” or “which clings so closely.” It could be the love of money, the lust for power, an uncontrolled tongue, pride, lust for the opposite sex, sowing discord among brothers, procrastination, or just plain disobedience—refusing to do the clearly known will of God. Often, victory is ours only if we resist Satan and flee from our strong temptation, by God’s grace.

The couple who live across the street from us are acupuncturists and shiatsu specialists. Mr. Suzuki is gone in the daytime. One day during a period of extreme pain in my neck, Jean urged me to go see Mrs. Suzuki for treatment. My conscience clearly revealed that I would have risked too much by visiting alone such an attractive woman. It is far better to have a bad neck than a ruined moral life.

I want Jabez’s prayer to be mine: “that you would keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me!” (1 Chronicles 4:10).

 5. I would be more systematic and single-minded in following a lifetime personal Bible study and Scripture memory program.

God has been gracious in helping me discover in the Scriptures some things about himself, about my own life, and about the needs of the ministry. Yet I feel I’m operating only on the fringes of his word, which is more powerful than any nuclear weapon.

The supernatural word of the living God melts and breaks our hard hearts! “‘Is not my word like as a fire,’ saith the Lord, ‘and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?'” (Jeremiah 23:29).

There are gaps in my life regarding the rich books of the Bible that I ought to have studied and mastered by now. But the temptation is to procrastinate and not redeem the time—to live and act as if I have all the time in the world.

Yet I am now fifty-nine years old. If the seventy years of a normal lifespan were squeezed into a single 24-hour day, it would now be 8:30 in the evening in my life. It is late; time is slipping by so rapidly.

If I were young, I would work out a tentative lifetime Bible study plan that I would review and revise as necessary each year. If you develop such a plan, make it flexible, so that it fits your lifestyle and ministry calling. Memorizing Scripture and reading through the Bible once a year ought to be a part of the plan. You must take the initiative in it, but get someone to help you.

I will delight myself in thy statutes;I will not forget thy word.

(Psalm 119:16)

6. I would be more determined in my one-to-one discipling ministry.

I would expect and demand more of people under my leadership, those whom I had responsibility for training. The temptation in this ministry is to underestimate men’s and women’s capacities and their desire to grow, to serve, and to accept challenge. Sometimes I have been fearful of offending them by asking too much, yet seldom have I met this kind of reaction.

The Master Challenger of all times, Jesus Christ, never hesitated to stretch men beyond their abilities, and over a period of time to bring them up to their true potential. His dealings with the unpredictable fisherman Peter are an example. It is a work that takes time, tears, failure, faith, prayer, trust, humility, love, responsiveness, perseverance, intercession—and clear objectives.

Waiting for the right time is important. There are various growth stages in a disciple’s life, and what can be taught to him tomorrow cannot be taught today. Jesus knew this: “I have yet many things to say unto you,” he told his disciples, “but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12). God can reveal the right timing to the disciplemaker in answer to prayer.

So timing is important; yet in my life I may have been too cautious. We have wonderful promises for the men and women God has given us, and by active faith in these promises we can see God work, bless, and multiply beyond our expectations.

7. I would welcome trials and even failures as mends and as builders of my poor character.

This is in response to the command in James 1:2—

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance.

God always has his own special training programs for our lives: a physical injury or disease, a broken heart over a love affair, a potential disciple who becomes an adversary, relatives who harass us, fruit in evangelism that turns out to be false after testings, disunity on our ministry team, our own lack of personal consistency and discipline, financial struggles, career conflicts, and so on. These can bring us a sense of failure and low self-esteem, and a loss of confidence.

In such trials and testings I am tempted to complain, and to not trust in God’s sovereignty. I may want to give up, or to fight against God’s special purposes. I may murmur against my spiritual leader or against others who I feel are conspiring against me. Or I am tempted to think God has forgotten and forsaken me.

But with the reflection that comes from a faith rooted in God’s word, I know he has my best interests at heart. He is a loving Father who chastens me because I am his son. He is purging out the dross, and only the heat of the fire of trials can bring the impurities to the top. So to these trials I must say with fear and trembling, “Welcome, friends!”

8. I would be more considerate, kind, tender, and communicative toward my wife, my children, and my fellow workers.

God has given me an unusual and wonderful wife. Jean and I have been married thirty years. Yet it took me the first ten of those years to learn to praise her. In Proverbs 31 we read that the woman of virtue is praised by her husband and her children. If I, as her husband, praise Jean, my children will also. If I don’t, they won’t. They learn from my example.

In the early years of pioneering the Navigator ministry in Japan, there were times when I made major decisions affecting staff members and their families. Sometimes I made these decisions with little consideration for their feelings, and with little discussion. They were not always bad decisions, but the manner in which they were made was not always thoughtful. Looking back, in certain cases I would certainly have done things differently. Scripture admonishes me to walk in my calling “with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2–3).

Over the years the Japanese have taught me much about this kind of thoughtfulness, contributing more to me than I have ever contributed to them in the area of decision-making.

9. I would seek to develop a hobby earlier in my life.

Christian workers are often hard-driving, hard-working people with little recognition of their need to slow down—for a diversionary hobby, for example. I’m not sure anyone could have convinced me in my early adulthood that I needed a hobby, and not until I was 46 did I begin to discover some hidden talent in woodcarving.

Since then I’ve learned that a hobby can relieve tension and pressure by diverting my thinking and attention from the ministry. It also brings out the creativity that is within me waiting to be released, and gives me opportunities to use my mind and hands in a new sphere. It leads to a new circle of friends, and involves the whole family in wider horizons of experience. And it also teaches me much about the wonders of creation and about the Creator—the One who made us, and who is still at work within us; “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

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Scripture quotations are from the Twentieth Century New Testament, the New International Version, theKing James Version, the Revised Standard Version, and J. B. Phillips’s The New Testament in Modern English.

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